Diverse group of employees high fiving

Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices

Tom Stroud By Tom Stroud on 19.02.2021
Diversity & Inclusion | 5 Min Read

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are one of HR’s top objectives. Spurred on by recent political and social movements, it’s a subject that has been driven to the forefront now more than ever. This isn’t something that can be addressed just by recruitment. Creating a diverse company and an inclusive culture often requires extensive change that tackles complex issues. Here are some of the best D&I practices HR leaders are putting into place to achieve measurable success;

Establish executive commitment and ownership

Any successful D&I program requires full leadership buy-in and commitment from all at the board level - working groups, committees, HR, or a sole D&I officer will not achieve comparable levels of recognition from the rest of the workforce. Those board leaders must honestly review where the business stands on diversity and inclusion and then clarify the aim and vision, emphasising it as a priority.

Recognise your purpose, define the vision and educate your staff

Most of us know that one of the most effective ways to achieve a target is by setting a goal, something which most certainly applies to designing a robust D&I framework. An excellent way to appreciate and then define your D&I statement is by building it into your business plan. This ensures that company goals are set whilst also creating a plan to achieve them.

Once the goals are set, the following task is to communicate that mission to the entire company. To be wholly accepted, employees need to be educated on the benefits for them and the business as a whole. They will need training on the best practices to support those initiatives.

Measure, monitor & review

We mentioned goals earlier, but without any, measuring the success of any D&I strategy becomes practically impossible. By setting out what your organisation aims to achieve and identifying the metrics it will be measured against, your D&I plan can be periodically reviewed. These reviews will then produce evaluations, which will highlight any potential issues, and this will, in turn, allow your initiatives to be re-assessed if necessary.

Be empathetic. Make employees feel important. Help individuals thrive

Diversity and inclusion are frequently treated as a singular entity, run exclusively by HR, and more often than not, it’s seen as a political or box-ticking exercise. To allow genuine change to happen, all leaders need to appreciate the value of empathy. In the past, soft skills like empathy, self-appreciation or reflection have been seen as ‘woolly’ and not business-like.

Yet, by assessing and developing empathy, those senior employees who recall a time when they felt ignored, shamed, excluded or unimportant, can apply that understanding to their teams. Sensing that they are understood leads to a workforce of people who feel like they belong and contributes a long way towards improving employee engagement, ultimately resulting in overall improvements in company performance.

Treat your D&I framework as mission-critical, not compliance-necessary

All too often, immense amounts of time, finance and effort go into the preliminary stages of setting out a robust D&I strategy. And all too often, if a ‘more important’ issue crops up during that time, something that is considered business-critical and that must be addressed immediately (like COVID 19), the focus moves away from D&I to firefighting that problem.

Unfortunately, this short-term view often leaves the business back where it started. Rather than deploy the many benefits of your D&I strategy, such as listening to different ideas and finding creative ways to solve problems, the same old arguments are used, and the cycle begins again. Suppose the company is committed to maintaining a diverse workforce that thrives in an inclusive environment. In that case, it must review the importance of D&I to ensure it is as important as financial management or customer service.

If your business wants to ensure the measures it takes to implement a carefully considered diversity & inclusion framework, all of the above are essential steps to achieving that. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues this may raise or be discouraged if you experience ‘diversity fatigue’ from some areas of the business. But when that happens, don’t forget that put more simply, diversity & inclusion boils down to two primary concerns; recruiting and retaining well.

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